The University of Houston-Victoria School of Nursing is planning to expand its offerings and has brought in an expert to help develop a proposed doctoral-level nursing degree.

Kathleen Reeve, who recently was hired as the School's M.G. and Lillie A. Johnson Foundation endowed chair, will lead the creation of a Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree.

Reeve will direct the university's degree plan, curriculum development, course descriptions and objectives, and develop a vision for the proposed program.

"It's a big project, but it's an important one," said Reeve, who holds a doctorate in public health and was an advanced practice registered nurse for 16 years in Houston and Katy. "It is driven by the increasing demand for healthcare and recent changes in legislation, which creates a much greater need for advanced practice registered nurses."

The proposed program would be UHV's first doctoral program. The doctorate degree will provide advanced, graduate-level education in the diagnosis and management of medical conditions. Nurse practitioners can serve as a patient's primary health care provider, treating and managing the needs of the patient, prescribing medicines, and ordering tests and therapies for patients.

Federal healthcare reform passed in 2009 creates an estimated 32 million previously uninsured citizens who now will be able to seek more affordable medical care. Add that to the increasing number of baby boomer retirees, and the demand for health care services will rise significantly.

Reeve said there already are not enough healthcare providers to supply primary care.

"The Victoria, Sugar Land and Katy areas will require many more advanced practice registered nurses to manage practices, especially communities with populations who will finally have the opportunity to access health care," Reeve said.

Reeve said the university's plan is to get the program started as soon as possible so that UHV can produce seasoned nurse practitioners to provide care in the area. She said the proposed program may be available at the main UHV campus in Victoria, the UH System at Cinco Ranch and the UH System at Sugar Land. Offerings at all three locations could be facilitated with online and video classes.

"We're working with the communities to provide clinical opportunities so students will not be required to travel long distances for their clinical experiences," she said.

The hope is to begin enrollment in fall 2011, although the program must be approved at the university level, by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas Board of Nursing, and meet other national criteria.

"This is a time of growth in the healthcare industry, and UHV is adding to its nursing degree programs to try and address the increasing needs of society," said Kathryn Tart, founding dean of the UHV School of Nursing. "We are proud to have Dr. Reeve on board as the Johnson endowed chair. She will help us do our part to address critical shortages by providing primary care providers.

"I am very appreciative of the Johnson Foundation's support in promoting this program and helping to fill the need for Advanced Practice Registered Nurses in the community," Reeve said.

Reeve has coordinated a master's program and directed adult and family nurse practitioner programs for the past 16 years.

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